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Center Identification Number:  527-12


Project Title:  Design Elements of Effective Transit Information Materials


Principal Investigator:          


Chandra Foreman, Research Associate                              






Center for Urban Transportation Research

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida


External Project Contact:    


Tara Bartee, Transit Planning Administrator


I.  Project Objectives


To identify those design elements of written transit information materials that provide the greatest utility to non-users and users when participating in transit trip planning and to incorporate those design elements into prototype materials to serve as model to transit agencies.


II.  Project Abstract


This project will draw from the findings of the NCTR Research Project, Assessment of Operational Barriers and Impediments to Transit Use, wherein the lack of effective and user-friendly bus schedules and route maps in Florida was identified as a significant barrier to transit use among non-users.  This project is the second phase of the Operational Barriers and Impediments to Transit Use project, wherein prototype transit information materials will be developed and field tested to evaluate the effectiveness of specific design materials.  During an intermediary project entitled, Assessment of Information Materials and Development of Criteria for Prototype Transit Material, specific design elements were selected to be included in the prototype materials that will be developed in this, the second phase, of the project.  In this project, those design elements will be incorporated into prototype materials and field tested to determine which design elements are most effective in transit information materials. 


III.  Task Descriptions


This project will include eight distinct tasks designed to achieve the objectives listed above.  Each task is described below.


Task 1:  Conceptualize Prototype Materials Focusing on Specified Design Elements


In the NCTR Research Project, Assessment of Operational Barriers and Impediments to Transit Use, it was concluded that design elements of written transit information materials can have an impact on a potential transit user’s ability to successfully plan a transit trip. Through an intermediary project, Assessment of Transit Information Materials and Development of Criteria for Prototype Transit Materials, several design elements were identified and described and it is proposed that many of these design elements be evaluated through prototype materials used in observational tests


The objective of this task is to conceptualize prototype written transit information materials that can be used to test the validity and effectiveness of various design elements. This task involves conceptualizing the layout and development of the prototype bus schedules and route maps.  Ideally, standard information will be used for all prototype materials (i.e. number of routes, coverage area, frequency).  For each design element, prototype materials will be modified to reflect one variation.  This ensures that the effects of a design element on trip planning activities of the subjects will be isolated.     The conceptual layout will be shared with the FDOT project manager for review before any decisions are made on final layout.


Task 2:  Development of Prototype Transit Materials


In this task, the conceptual layout of the prototype materials developed in the previous task will be used to professionally create the bus schedules and route maps for the observational testing phase of this project.  CUTR’s graphic professional will produce the prototype materials, based on the conceptual layouts provided by the researchers.  The prototype materials will be circulated among CUTR researchers for review, as well as through the FDOT project manager.  After consideration of all suggested modifications, the prototype material to be used in all demonstration and testing periods will be produced.


Task 3:  Develop Test Instrument for Use in Evaluating Prototype Materials


This task involves the development of the test and support instruments that will be used in evaluating the prototype bus schedules and route maps.  The test instrument will be designed to be suitable for observational and experimental evaluations.  CUTR will utilize testing methods similar to those used in the initial project, Assessment of Operational Barriers and Impediments to Transit Use.  In addition, CUTR will utilize the expertise of others associated with the University who are qualified to evaluate the merit of the selected test and support instruments based on readability and the ability of the instruments to provide the information needed to measure the effectiveness of the design elements.  Again, CUTR will also seek review of the test and support instruments from the FDOT project manager.


Deliverable:  Technical Memorandum Number One:  Summary of the Material Development and Test Instrument Development Processes.


Task 4:  Establish the Field Test Sample Recruitment Process


This task will involve identifying the various methods by which a statistically sound sample group can be recruited to test the prototype bus schedules and route maps.  The mall intercept survey method was used for the initial project.  Other methods will be identified and evaluated to determine which is best suited for this project.


This task will also involve determining whether comparing field test sample results by demographic segments will be beneficial to the study.  Possible demographic segment comparisons may be male to female and elderly to non-elderly.  This task will result in a deliverable that compares for each sample recruitment technique the size of the sample group that can be generated, the ability to discern between demographic segments, and other characteristics that will allow the most effective and efficient field test sample recruitment process.  The FDOT project manager will play an active role in evaluating the field test sample recruitment techniques.


Deliverable:  Technical Memorandum Number Two:  Discussion on Field Test Sample Recruitment Techniques, Costs, and Estimations of Sample Group Size


Task 5:  Pilot Test


CUTR will administer, to a pilot group, observational and experimental tests (developed in Task III) designed to determine the effectiveness of particular design elements featured in prototype transit materials (developed in Task II).  The pilot test will allow CUTR to determine if the tests developed to evaluate the design elements of the prototypes are effective.  Following the pilot test, the participants will provide feedback on the test instrument that may encourage a more effective instrument for the actual field test. 


In addition to trying out the test instruments through a pilot group, CUTR will also test the quantitative and qualitative data analyses processes on the pilot test results to determine if the tests can provide useful data.  The pilot test, in essence, affords an opportunity to ensure that the test instrument will work before resources, such as sample group participants, prototype samples, and additional funding are utilized.


Task 6:  Conduct Field Tests Using Prototype Materials


The actual observational field tests are conducted during this task.   Subjects will participate in transit trip planning activities using the prototype materials. The tests will be observed by those trained to evaluate physical signs regarding the level of comfort that the subjects have with the prototype materials.  For instance, participants in the test will be observed for distress or frustration (or lack thereof), time needed to complete test, and other physical signs that may illustrate their level of comfort with using the prototype materials.  In addition, the participants will also be interviewed after they have completed the field test to assess their level of comfort with the field test materials.


Task 7:  Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analyses


This task will involve performing quantitative and qualitative analyses of the data collected in the field tests conducted in the previous task.  The ultimate result of such analyses should reveal which design elements most affected the ability of the non-user to plan a trip.


Task 8:  Findings and Recommendations


The final task of the research will summarize the results of all previous tasks, which will be incorporated into a final report. In addition, the final report will include a summary of the impact of each tested design element as it relates its ability to improve or hinder transit trip planning.  CUTR will also provide recommendations on how transit agencies might incorporate into their transit materials information those design elements that positively influenced the subjects’ abilities to complete the transit trip planning processes.  Such recommendations could include possible design layouts for transit schedules and route maps.


Deliverable:  Final Report –including hard copy and electronic versions.


IV.  Project Schedule, Milestones


Project Start Date:  April 1, 2003



















Task 1

















Task 2

















Task 3

















Tech Memo 1

















Task 4

















Tech Memo 2

















Task 5

















Task 6

















Task 7

















Task 8

















Progress Reports

















Final Report


















V.  Project Budget


Development and Field Testing of Prototype Transit Information Materials

Budget Categories

State Share

   Institute Director Salary


   Faculty Salaries ($21.249 x 1,644 hours)


   Administrative Staff Salaries


   Other Staff Salaries


   Grad Student Salaries ($14.00 x 280 hrs)


   Undergraduate Salaries


   Staff Benefits


Total Salaries and Benefits


   Permanent Equipment


   Expendable Equipment and Supplies


   Domestic Travel


   Foreign Travel


   Computer Costs


   Other Costs


Total Direct Costs


   Indirect Costs





Notes: The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above.


VI.  Student Involvement


Graduate students will be used to assist in conceptualizing the prototype materials and developing the test instrument for evaluating the prototype materials, and conducting the field tests.  Further, the graduate students will play an integral role in developing the technical memoranda and preparing materials for the final report. 


VII.  Relationship to Other Research Projects


This project will directly draw on the experience and knowledge gained through the Operational Barriers and Impediments to Transit Use project and the intermediary project entitled Assessment of Transit Information Materials and Development of Criteria for Prototype Transit Materials.  In addition, CUTR will also utilize other research that has been conducted related to the effectiveness and usability of printed bus schedules and route maps.


VIII.  Technology Transfer Activities


The results of this analysis will be provided to the FDOT through a final report, as outlined above.  Copies of the final report will be provided to the Research Office, the State Public Transportation Administrator, and the Manager of the Transit Office.  Information also will be made available on the NCTR website and through presentations at local and national conferences.


IX.  Potential Benefits of the Project


The benefits of the project include the identification of specific design characteristics for printed transit information materials that are user-friendly and effective.  Ultimately, the results of this project could provide transit agencies guidance on how to improve bus schedules and route maps so that the benefits to the transit customers are infinite.


X.  TRB Keywords


Transit marketing, bus schedules, route maps, transit literacy, schedule design


National Center for Transit Research · at the Center For Urban Transportation Research · University of South Florida · 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 · Tampa, FL 33620-5375 · (813) 974-3120 · (813) 974-5168 · · Comments: